Gaza ceasefire faces first test with annual Jerusalem Day Flag Parade
After announcing a ceasefire at 22:00 Saturday night, May 13, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad itself fired 35 rockets into Israel half an hour after the deadline. Israel had already accepted the truce in its five-day IDF Operation Shield and Arrow, provided it was upheld by Jihad. So the IDF responded to this first breach with a last airstrike on the terrorist group’s rocket stores.
After that skirmish, calm was virtually imposed on the Gaza front by the ruling Hamas, which stayed out of the fray, when it stepped in with an official order for the enclave to return to its normal routine the following day.
But will the truce hold? That will be tested on Thursday. Will Jihad have recovered enough to hurl rockets against the traditional Jerusalem Day flag parade dancing through the Muslim Quarter of the Old City up to the Western Wall?
Because it was hurting badly, Jihad gave ground on terms to allow the Egyptian brokers leeway for drawing Israel into pausing its successful operation. Despite the loss of its top six Gaza Strip commanders, Jihad volleyed 1,469 rockets into Israel in five days. However, of the 1,139 that crossed the border, 291 fell short, some killing Gazan civilians, 391 dropped into the sea and 437 heading for populated areas were struck down by Israel’s Iron Dome defense system. (see photo of Iron Dome in action) Two new David’s Sling missiles, jointly developed by the US and Israel, had their first chance to prove their mettle.
Israel suffered two fatalities: Inga Abramiyan aged 80, who did not make it to the shelter when her apartment in Rehovot took a direct hit; and Abdullah Abu Gaba, 39, a workman from the Gaza Strip who was killed by a flying rocket shrapnel at his place of employment in the Negev moshav of Shukada. The Magen David first aid service reports 77 people were hurt by rocket fire that spread across several regions – 32 with physical injuries and 45 suffering trauma. Another 23 victims were injured while running for shelter after a siren alert.
The Palestinian Health Ministry reported 33 killed in the IDF operation, including 6 children and three women. According to Palestinian data, 141 local civilians were hurt by Jihad rockets that fell short inside Gaza. Furthermore, 20 buildings were demolished and 940 apartments damaged, of which 49 were condemned for habitation. The total damage caused in the Gaza Strip is estimated in the range of $5million.
All in all, the collateral damage caused by the IDF operation was relatively minimal. However, even after six Jihad commanders were taken out and its infrastructure degraded, the terrorist group’s fighting strength and rocket arsenal are far from depleted. The IDF, in partnership with the Shin Bet security service, came out on top of the contest. Thanks to high-grade soldiering and superb intelligence, the Israeli military gave Jihad a painful thrashing. This outcome will be tested on Jerusalem Day next Thursday.